Mandy Patinkin to Narrate Showtime CIA Documentary 'The Spymasters'

The network also announced their late 2015 documentary slate, including ones that explore the lives of Marlon Brando, Jimi Hendrix, Suge Knight and Barney Frank.
Associated Press
Mandy Patinkin

Mandy Patinkin is moving from a show about a fake CIA to a project about the real one.

The Homeland star will narrate Showtime's new documentary, The Spymasters, which looks at the world’s most powerful and clandestine spy agency and the men who ran it. It will premiere November 28 at 9 p.m. Participants include: George H. W. BushStansfield Turner, William Webster, Robert Gates, James Woolsey, John Deutch, George Tenet, Porter Goss, Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta, David Petraeus and John Brennan, among others.

The news was announced Tuesday at the Television Critics Association press tour, where network chief David Nevins spoke about the influence he hopes the documentary will have. "There is going to be big newsworthy stuff coming out of The Spymasters," he said on stage.

For the first time ever, all twelve living directors of the CIA and the agency’s top operatives have given candid interviews and unprecedented access to the spy network. The documentary, written by Chris Whipple (The President’s Gatekeepers) and directed by Gedeon Naudet and Jules Naudet (9/11), is executive produced by Pulitzer Prize winner David Hume Kennerly and Emmy and Peabody Award-winning journalist Susan Zirinsky (9/11, Three Days In September, 48 Hours). The Naudets and Whipple will also produce, in conjunction with CBS News.

The film focuses on the organization during one of the most controversial periods in its history, marked by the use of torture, secret prisons, undeclared war, lethal drone warfare and even an alleged assassination. Among the questions it asks: How far should America go to keep us safe from another terrorist attack? What is considered fair game? Has the world’s elite spying organization focused on paramilitary operations at the expense of gathering intelligence? The documentary will examine the internal debate among the directors about what is ethical and how America should fight to protect its own citizens. 

It will reveal never-before-seen footage of directors talking about their failures and previously classified successes. The memorable and frightening terrorist attacks that each director lived through will be captured in vivid “real-time” as they developed and unfolded. Viewers will also hear from key critics of the CIA with claims of ineffectiveness, overreaching authority and poor image.

Showtime also announced seven other documentaries, including ones that delve into such fascinating figures as Marlon Brando, Jimi Hendrix, Suge Knight, Barney Frank and Warren Jeffs. And for the first time in network history, three of its documentaries will debut in theaters nationwide: Listen to Me Marlon, Prophet's Prey and Dreamcatcher. Below is a complete list of the upcoming films:

Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church: Explores the rock legend who captivated the world with his unique, highly stylized, jaw-dropping approach to blues guitar. The documentary chronicles his largest ever U.S. performance at the massive Atlanta Pop Music Festival in July 1970 with never-before-seen concert footage of the icon in action. Standout performances and recently unearthed footage shot by Steve Rash (The Buddy Holly Story), detail the historic night and the efforts of promoter Alex Cooley to create the definitive music festival with Hendrix as the centerpiece. Directed by John McDermott, the film showcases 16mm color footage of Hendrix’s performance, a mere ten weeks before his untimely death.

American Dream/American Knightmare: From famed director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Brooklyn’s Finest), the documentary delves deep into the life and storied exploits of the iconic Death Row Records co-founder Knight, as well as the volatile and highly influential era in music that he presided over. Through a series of interviews with Knight, who is currently in jail pending trial on murder, attempted-murder and hit-and-run charges, viewers are guided through his world as he personally reveals exactly how it all happened and why it all fell apart. The project is executive produced by Bradley J. Fischer (Black Swan, Shutter Island, Zodiac), Fuqua and Eva Gunz.

Prophet's Prey: It's a look inside the world and mind of Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), one of the largest cults currently operating in the United States.Though he was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list and eventually captured and sentenced to life in prison, Jeffs continues to prey on the FLDS community in absentia, his power largely unchecked and unchallenged to this very day. An official selection of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, Prophet's Prey is written and directed by Amy Berg (Deliver Us from Evil, West of Memphis), who also serves as a producer. The film is based on the book by Sam Brower, Prophet's Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints. Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Dustin Lance Black, Shannon Costello, Anna Culp, Geralyn Dreyfous, Erica Huggins, Jon Krakauer and Regina Scully also serve as executive producers. Brower and Katherine LeBlond also serve as the documentary’s producers.

Play it Forward: From executive producer Michael Strahan, the documentary is a rousing portrait of All-American NFL tight end Tony Gonzalez and his older brother, and wingman, Chris. Over the course of a year — his final in the NFL — future Hall-of-Famer Tony puts his heart on the line to achieve the one dream that has always eluded him: Super Bowl glory. At the same time, Chris, whose own football aspirations were thwarted by an injury, works to realize his very different ambition of becoming a professional firefighter. Equally full of heart and tension, Play it Forward is an uplifting and entertaining look at these two brothers, driven both on and off the field. The film, which was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, is directed and written by Andrea Blaugrand Nevins, produced by Cristan Crocker-Reilly and in addition to Strahan, is also executive produced by Constance Schwartz.

Listen to Me Marlon: The film was created using Brando’s vast personal audio archive, allowing him to tell the story in his own words. For the first time, Brando’s personal audio recordings come to life, charting his exceptional career as an actor and his extraordinary life away from the stage and screen. The film reveals the complexities and contradictions that were Brando, guiding us into the padlocked recesses of his own memory and through the story of his life. It is written, edited and directed by Stevan Riley (Fire in Babylon) and produced by Academy Award-winning producer John Battsek (Searching for Sugar Man), Emmy-winner R.J. Cutler (The September Issue) and George Chignell (Ali). Simon Chinn serves as the executive producer. The project is a Passion Pictures production in association with Red Box Films and co-produced by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Content Group.

Compared to What: The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank: This rollicking film reveals a Barney Frank you only thought you knew. It is an intimate look behind-the-scenes at the public and private life of one of America’s greatest legislators. Combining 40 years of rare and archival material with verité footage and interviews shot over several years, the film follows Frank from the Halls of Congress to the streets of Boston — and to the side of his loving partner, Jim Ready, as he takes his vows and becomes the first member of Congress to enter into a same-sex marriage. Directed and produced by Sheila Canavan and Michael Chandler, Geralyn Dreyfous serves as executive producer.

Dreamcatcher: The documentary is the inspirational portrait of Chicago’s Brenda Myers-Powell, whose Dreamcatcher Foundation fights to end human trafficking and to prevent the sexual exploitation of at-risk youth. Directed by veteran documentarian Kim Longinotto (Salma, Rough Aunties), the film focuses on Myers-Powell, a former Chicago prostitute who helps women and teenage girls break the cycle of sexual abuse and exploitation. The film lays bare the hidden violence that devastates the lives of young women, their families and the communities where they live. Armed with an overwhelming personality and unflinching focus, Brenda establishes The Dreamcatcher Foundation, which helps women and girls acquire the tools they need to leave the sex industry. It is a Rise Films, Vixen Films and Green Acres production in association with Impact Partners and Artemis Rising Foundation. The project is produced by Lisa Stevens and three-time Emmy winner Teddy Leifer (The Interrupters, The Invisible War). Executive Producers are Dan Cogan, Geralyn White Dreyfous and Regina K. Scully.

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